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We’re destined for the moon, but unsure of the course

CHRIS CONEY: "AT&T accepting Bitcoin is good for a different reason than you might think"

Adoption. That is what everyone thinks is the key to Bitcoin going to the moon. But not only is there a prior step that adoption relies upon, AT&T has just helped us take it.

If you haven’t heard by now, AT&T – the United States telecoms giant – has enlisted the services of BitPay to start processing cryptocurrency payments for its customers. While this news got everyone excited, it may have been for the wrong reason.

Rather than thousands of AT&T customers rushing to pay their phone bill with Bitcoin and boosting actual use as a currency, there is a bigger benefit here in terms of all those uninitiated AT&T customers who will now see that ‘Pay with Bitcoin’ option inside their account.

Adoption relies on people first having an awareness of Bitcoin, and second on them having sufficient confidence in it. Since deep thinking and research takes a lot of effort, the masses tend to prefer to wait for some kind of signal from an established authority. This is what AT&T has just done. In the eyes of its customers, Bitcoin now has the AT&T stamp of approval. This is also likely to make a contribution to the number of people Googling “What is Bitcoin?” and will no doubt stimulate conversations around the office.

Ideally we want a Bitcoin economy that is circular, where people earn and spend Bitcoin without conversion to a national currency like the dollar. The reason companies employ the services of payment processors like BitPay is to allow customers to pay in Bitcoin while the service provider receives dollars. Companies do this to avoid the Bitcoin price volatility.

There is a small and growing trend however towards companies offering their employees the option to receive some or all of their salary in Bitcoin, which is ideal if you have Bitcoin payments coming in from customers on a regular basis. In fact, the Kraken exchange appeared in the news recently for this very reason. The company revealed that in April 2019 it paid 250 staff salaries in Bitcoin out of the 800 people it employs. The ability for a company to offer this to employees also largely depends on local laws.

So awareness is the first step, and that is happening all the time. This leads to adoption and actual usage. The third step however is still some way off, which is when products and services begin to be priced in Bitcoin. That one potentially carries the same volatility risk that I mentioned earlier. That is until we get to that circular Bitcoin economy where there is no need to convert the money we receive into anything else. Bitcoin will be money.

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